"The Way of G-d"
Part 4: "Divine Service"
Ch. 4: "Shema Yisroel and Its Blessings"
Paragraph 1 (Part 2)
Our last point was that evil and wrong exist for a good reason and play a
part in G-d's plans for the universe. It's also important for us to know
that, quite ironically, the existence of evil and wrong also serve to
*affirm G-d's oneness*. But we'll get back to that shortly. Our own
relationship with evil and wrong is this, though. We're taught that we're
each expected to rid the world of it, and to integrate all the good within
ourselves and the universe.
Now, that touches upon many arcane and profound themes, and legions of
books have been written to explain it, so it clearly calls for a lot more
than we can offer here. But it comes down to the fact that we've been
placed in a world of good and evil so as to first struggle with evil and
overcome it, to then free ourselves from its bonds, and to eventually
utterly annihilate it from the world. And we're taught that our having
done that will then enable goodness to be bolstered throughout the
But let's return now to the idea that evil and wrong in the world somehow
affirm G-d's oneness and sovereignty. That comes down to the fact that
what evil essentially is, is a product of what's referred to as "G-d
concealing His Countenance". What *that* means to say is this: though G-d
is of course invisible, He nonetheless makes His presence known to us, in
varying degrees. When His presence is palpable and overt,
His "Countenance" is said to be "revealed" (that is, we sense Him paying
full-face attention to us); and when He seems to be distracted and
elsewhere inclined, His "Countenance" is said to be "concealed" (see 1:5:8
for more on this). Thus, when evil and wrong (which are the antitheses of
G-dliness, after all) are manifest and widespread, "G-d's Countenance is
concealed" from us.
It follows then that in order for evil and wrong to be annihilated (which
we're aiming for, as we said), G-d's Countenance would have to be so
overtly revealed that we'd "see" His oneness and sovereignty for
ourselves. And in fact, all of that will come about in the ultimate
future, when all of creation will be rectified.
But, not only will the world be rectified -- we'll also know for ourselves
in retrospect the vital role each instance of evil and wrong will have
played in the universe, and we'll finally come to understand how its
having been undone allowed for G-d's Countenance to be "seen".
Let's offer a not too uncommon scenario to explain that. Suppose a very
good person suddenly turned ill. A sensitive soul would be bothered by
that and wonder where G-d was in that instance. Then let's imagine that
the patient's sudden condition proved to be minor but required that he be
quickly operated on anyway; that, quite unexpectedly and unrelated to the
operation, a small but virulent cancer-cluster was found which was quickly
and thoroughly removed; and that the patient was thus spared a terrible
tragedy in the process. Wouldn't the same sensitive soul we'd cited have
his faith in G-d *bolstered* by that incident? And wouldn't G-d's wisdom,
mercy, and sovereignty have been proved true in retrospect?
A world of things akin to that will be true in the ultimate future as
well. For just as in this instance, the existence of "wrong" (the original
illness) and the struggle to overcome it (the operation) will lead to the
eradication of a greater wrong (the cancer) and the affirmation of G-d's
reign, we'll likewise see much the same for our selves -- on a far grander
scale -- in the ultimate future. Indeed, the reasons behind all instances
of evil and wrong will be made clear in retrospect, evil itself will be
undone, and G-d's Countenance will be revealed throughout the universe.
But, what has all this to do with the daily recitation of "Shema Yisroel",
as we asked last time? It comes to the fact that when we recite Shâ€™ma
Yisroel we proclaim and affirm G-d's oneness and sovereignty -- the fact
that "G-d our L-rd is one G-d" and manifest. (We recite it both day- and
nighttime because different cosmic machinations are in place in the day
and the night that affect the workings of the universe, and our reciting
it those two times serves to affect each of the appropriate machinations.)
In short, then, when we recite Shema Yisroel we declare the ultimate truth
of the universe: that G-d is the only utterly indispensable Being, and
that everything is utterly dependent upon Him; that He's the Sovereign of
the Universe who authorizes everything that happens with a benevolent end
in mind; that He's the Source and Culmination of everything; and that He
will bring about ultimate perfection in due time.
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org.